SOURCE - The inevitability of the College Football Playoff expanding has been embraced around every corner of the sport. From the academic ivory towers to the athletic departments to the locker room, an evolution of some type has long been an expectation.
Yahoo Sports spoke to more than a dozen stakeholders Monday on every side of the playoff decision – university officials, athletic directors, media executives and others around college sports. Amid those conversations, a surprise emerged — officials on campuses, in conference offices and in the television world have expressed an openness toward a 12-team playoff as the most likely result.
While it’s unfair to say momentum has built toward a 12-team playoff before models have been presented to the commissioners or presidents, the 12-team model has emerged as the favored outcome over the eight-team playoff within the industry.
“The reason that you go to 12 is because you can develop the road of least resistance toward a good result,” said a high-ranking college official with knowledge of the process.
Officials familiar with the CFP process stress that an entire process still needs to play out. The first step will come in Chicago on July 17 and 18 when the four-member working group, tasked for nearly the past two years with exploring expansion, reports its findings to the CFP management committee. The four-member working group will present the finding to a group made up of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson.
WOW. Obviously nothing definitive yet, but going to 12 teams over 8 or 16 would be a total curveball from what I imagined the playoff would transition to. It’s been pretty well known from day 1 of the CFB playoff being implemented that at some point we would see another change in the playoff format. Putting the four team playoff in place was a huge step forward for college football and extremely important in transitioning towards a place that makes college football the best possible product it can be, but now it’s time to take the next step and make it even better.
When you see national championship games like this past years where Alabama curb stomps my Buckeyes, I can totally see why casual fans would make an argument that there’s no reason to expand the playoff when the gap between 1-2 is already that big, what’s the point of adding 4-12 more teams? My counterpoint would be first of all, this specific Alabama team was a bit of an outlier. Literally every single starter is a future NFL player with 8 of them going in the first 38 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. The 2020 Alabama football team was an all-time team in the history of college football. Nick Saban is just different, we all know that by now. Moving to 12 teams does a few things for college football and the main one I believes is it opens up the college football landscape to the entire country. With the four team format it’s essentially Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and either Oklahoma, Georgia or some random team that sneaks in the 4th spot only to get killed by Alabama. In a 12 team format with byes for the top 4 teams, it not only opens up opportunity to Group of 5 conferences, but it gives middling teams in power 5 conferences a real opportunity to get a seat at the table.
Getting in the top 4 isn’t realistic for most teams but getting in the top 12 certainly is. It also creates some awesome potential cross conference matchups (with everything on the line) instead of cross conference bowl games where a ton of star players sit out and throws a wrench in the value of bowl season. As a hardcore college football fan I’m going to watch meaningless bowl games with players sitting out no matter what but I can totally see why some casuals wouldn’t be as motivated to tune in.
Expanding the playoff to 12 makes the overall landscape of college football way more inclusive and gives the little guy a real chance, while also protecting them. This way when we have a smaller teams like Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina last year make big runs and grab an 8-12 seed, they’d play teams like 2020 Florida or Oklahoma for example, instead of sending them into the lions den right away to play Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State. This makes it so even if a smaller school team is able to win a playoff game and then lose to Bama by 100, they still have solidified themselves to some degree by beating a legit top 10 team in Florida or Oklahoma for example and showing they at least were deserving of being placed with this group of teams. Overall, I think it keeps more fan bases more deeply invested deeper into the season and gives more “win or go home” games which is always better for the sport and the fans. I’m all for playoff expansion, but we’ll just have to wait and see.